spring well into the fall, musicians are picking and fiddling
at festivals up and down the Blue Ridge.
more on the late Doc Watson, see our
tribute on our CarolinasBest.com blog.
the seminal festival founded by Doc
Watson in honor of his son, Merle, some of the other big
festivals in western North Carolina include:
Days, held in Mt. Airy in late September,
Alleghany County Fiddler's Convention in Sparta the
third weekend in July
Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, held every August
for nearly 90 years.
Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddlers' Convention held in
Ashe County Park the first Saturday of August,
Hiddenite Celebration of the Arts, a weeklong event
Old-Time Fiddlers and Bluegrass Festival at Union Grove
every Memorial Day, a tradition that dates back to 1924, marks
the start of the summer festival season.
- The Bluff
Mountain Festival, a free gathering held every
June in Hot Springs, NC, one of the state's most unique attractions.
- The North
Carolina State Bluegrass Festival, held every August,
in Cherokee, held at Happy Holiday RV Village in June.
Mountin Music Festival, in late June/early July.
Belle Reed Music Festival,
in Lansing, Ashe County, every August.
White, and Bluegrass Festival, held July 4th weekend,
First Class, an indoor festival held in Asheville during
You can find
more bluegrass festivals all over the state at this
don't have to buck the crowds at a festival - or spend a fortune
- to enjoy old-time music however.
In barbecue restaurants, barber shops, barns and general stores
up and down the Blue Ridge, musicians who might be car salesmen
or farmers or college professors get together to play just for
the joy of it.
N.C. Arts Council and N.C. Dept. of Cultural Resources have made
these musical gatherings easy to find by sponsoring two terrific
Fred Fussell's Blue Ridge Music Trails: Finding a Place
in the Circle, published in 2003 by the University of
North Carolina Press and the N.C. Folklife Institute, details
festivals and jam sessions in the mountains of both North Carolina
and Virginia, along with stories told by some of the region's
most famous musicians. The book won the first Preserve America
Presidential Award for Heritage Tourism, presented by Pres.
Bush last year.
book's companion website, www.blueridgemusictrails.org,gives
up-to-date times and places where you can find music conveniently
arranged by county with accompanying maps.
Concerts & Jams
the summer, you can find free concerts and jam sessions nearly
every night of the week.
of the biggest jam sessions is the free Saturday night
on the Green in Asheville, held every weekend in July
and August. Part lawn party, part street dance, the free event
draws musicians and fans alike.
Friday evening in summer and fall, there's a free
bluegrass concert, usually with cloggers, buck dancers
and flatfooters, on the Lawn in front of the Jones House Community
Center in downtown Boone. The concert is free. http://www.watauga-arts.org/
other music events in Boone, check out http://www.mountaintimes.com/
Home Music concerts in the Blowing Rock School Auditorium
take place nearly every week.
Jubilee runs year-round in downtown Sparta. For info on
weekly jams in Alleghany County visit
and Fridays there's bluegrass music at the Todd
General Store between W. Jefferson and Boone.
Music Jamboree http://www.mountainmusicjamboree.com
in Glendale Springs, near Jefferson, sponsors foot-stomping fun
on Friday and Saturday nights.
NC Bluegrass site for a listing of ongoing jam sessions
around the region.
info can be found at the Porch
free Sunday afternoon jam sessions at the Bolick
Pottery and Traditions Pottery Store near Blowing Rock
are legendary for hospitality.
at Altapass near Spruce Pine, selected as an Appalachian
treasure by the National Geographic Society, offers free mountain
music, dancing and storytelling on Wed. - Sunday afternoons (May-Sept.)
and on weekends in Oct..
Mountain Railroad sponsors a noontime concert in Bryson
City every day as the train from Dillsboro pulls in, June to Oct.
and Music Parks
the southern mountain counties, “hometown oprys” present shows
featuring mountain music and dance with a joke or two thrown in.
Look for them in:
music isn’t just for listening. Bring your dance shoes – with
or without taps – and prepare to cut the rug. Traditional dancing
comes in a variety of styles – flatfooting, buck dancing, clogging
and mountain two-step – but a simple shuffle will get you through
out the free summer street dances held in :
you prefer to do your dancing inside, the Stompin’ Ground
in Maggie Valley is considered a mecca of dance, Friday and Saturday
nights, April - Oct.
and bluegrass music are natural partners. Enjoy old-time music
along with your chopped pig and catfish at:
N.C. museums explore the history of this unique musical heritage.
Heritage Museum and Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, Wilkesboro
Appalachian Cultural Museum in Boone (closed)
Gateway Museum and Heritage Museum in downtown Old Fort,
with Pickin' on the Porch on weekends.
Life Museum at Mars Hill College in Madison County, also
home of the extensive Southern Appalachian Archives. The Bascom
Lamar Lunsford Minstrel of Appalachia Festival is held
every Oct. on campus.
and Merle Watson Folk Art Museum at the Old Cove Creek
School in Sugar Grove, NC; also the site of the annual Musicfest
'N Sugar Grove, a tribute to the memory of Doc and his
Family Museum at Kona Baptist Church, in Bakersville,
contains artifacts relating to the popular song, "The Ballad
of Frankie Silver." The church is open to visitors on the
fourth Saturday in July for the Silver Family Reunion, but you
can visit the graveyard outside anytime and look for Charlie Silver's
can find out the story behind the region’s most famous ballad
at the Whippoorwill
Academy and Tom Dooley Museum in North Wilkesboro.
Bluegrass Music Museum is located in Owensboro, Kentucky.
North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in Kannapolis honors
NC born masters in every kind of music.
Rest of the State
mountain counties don’t have an exclusive lock on traditional
North Carolina music, of course.
Music Ways presents the musical heritage of the northwestern
Piedmont counties of Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Stokes, Surry,
and Yadkin. Besides a searchable database of events, the website
offers interesting essays on the North Carolina roots of old-time
stringband, bluegrass, blues, jazz, gospel and Moravian music.
the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, produces traditional
music shows at venues throughout the Triangle.
Blues Preservation Society sponsors the annual Carolina
Blues Festival in Greensboro every May.
Carolina’s largest blues event, the Bull
Durham Blues Festival, held each September in the Historic
Durham Athletic Park, celebrates the distinctive Piedmont blues
style that developed in the area.
Eastern N.C. Bluegrass Association hosts a popular
Bluegrass Jam Session at Lenoir Community College in Kinston on
the second Saturday of every month. The annual Neuse
River Music Fest, featuring bluegrass music, is also held
Banks Bluegrass Island Festival takes place in Manteo
Poole Music Festival held each year on the second weekend
of June in Eden, North Carolina, hometown of the banjo legend.
Lil John's Mountain Music Festival is held in Snow
Camp, near Burlington, every May.
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver Bluegrass Festival is held
in Denton, NC, near Asheboro, at the Denton Farmpark every May.
John Old-Time & Bluegrass Fiddlers’ Convention takes place
in Sept. at Shakori Hills, near Pittsboro, also the site of April
GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance.
Big Lick Bluegrass Festival in Oakboro, between Charlotte
and Albemarle, takes place in April.
is held annually in August near Oxford.
County Line Bluegrass Barn in Wilson sponsors open pickin'
sessions on Tuesdays.
Mineral Springs Music Barn, outside of Waxhaw, has
Saturday night bluegrass.
Music Jubilee in Selma offers high-energy family variety
shows featuring a mix of bluegrass, country, oldies and gospel
N.C. Bluegrass Association website list events across
and Old Stores
duo that just seems to go together. In addition to the Todd General
Store, listed above, check out these nostagic venues across the
E.H. Montgomery General Store in Gold Hill hosts a
Friday night bluegrass jam year-round.
General Store just outside Greenville, NC, books acoustic
bands, including bluegrass and Americana.
Pottery & Music Barn, outside of Carthage, hosts Tuesday
night bluegrass jams.
Old Hargett Store in Marshville, near Monroe, hosts
Tuesday night bluegrass.
Store Music, near Pittsboro, hosts bluegrass on the first
and third Saturdays of the month.
Farm Equipment in Charlotte has free bluegrass on the
second and third Wednesdays of the month.
Drexel Barber Shop, outside of Morganton, has hosted
Sat. night bluegrass jams since 1949.
more jam sessions in North Carolina at this
Listen to Bluegrass while you drive or browse. Visit this
site for a listing of radio stations and shows broadcasting
and streaming bluegrass.
The informaiton in this story was correct at time of publication,
but things may change. Always check with a venue before setting
out for a destination.